Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography & Environmental Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

D. Scott Slocombe

Advisor Role

Dissertation Supervisor


This study employed a case-study approach and cross-case analysis to investigate the impact of Environmental Information Systems (EIS) and Local Knowledge Systems (LKS) on agro-forestry management and biodiversity conservation. Questionnaire-based interviews with service providers, resource managers and focus group discussions with farmers associated with the United Nations Capacity 21, the Netherlands Tropenbos International (TBI) and the United Nations Project on People Land Management and Conservation (UNPLEC), projects yielded in-depth information on agro-forestry practices in southern Ghana. The findings of the survey revealed that computer-based information systems have been used to identify areas of resource degradation. This has served as a sanitization tool to organize and intensify tree-planting exercises and agroforestry management activities in the affected areas.

Evaluation of individual cases and cross-case analysis of EIS projects in Ghana showed parallels and divergences in the modus operandi of EIS implementation at national and district levels. The Capacity 21 project initiated the District Environmental Resource Information System (DERIS). The project procured datasets (eg. satellite images, software, computers and printers) in 8 pilot districts including Sekyere West and Assin Fosu Districts and offered training and skill development programmes under the auspices of the Centre for Environmental Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Services (CERSGIS) to equip focal district planning officers to use tools and datasets to analyze the state of the environment and the extent of resource degradation as well as other development-related activities. This fostered cooperation between the national coordinator of the project, district planners and local farmers to organize regular tree-planting exercises and workshops on alternative livelihood activities which have helped to lessen pressure on the environment to some extent. This approach exhibits a greater degree of top-down planning and implementation.

The field survey revealed that PLEC used computer-based information systems during the earlier stages of the project to demarcate demonstration sites and capture spatio-temporal variations in agro-ecological conditions. However, during the subsequent phases, the PLEC project relied heavily and predominantly on local agro-ecological knowledge from a diverse group of farmers to assess resource conditions, and promoted the use of various traditional and exotic agro-forestry and agro-diversity management techniques in the Manya Krobo and Suhum Kraboa Coaltar Districts. The PLEC approach was more bottom-up in its philosophy and practice by allowing natural and social scientists to learn from farmers, and the scientists in turn offered technical advice which enabled farmers to improve their local farming techniques and maximize their farm productivity, while at the same time enhancing the capacity of the biophysical environment to support conventional and alternative livelihood activities continually. The Tropenbos International (TBI) project exhibits elements of both top-down and bottom-up implementation approaches. It recognizes the significant role of tailor-made information (computer-based systems and socio-economic studies mainly from the Forest Services Commission and the University of Ghana, respectively) and skill in forest management. The TBI GORTMAN project streamlined the capacity for information collection in the Goaso and Offinso districts.

The findings revealed that farmers associated with the three projects apply various knowledge systems and techniques in agroforestry management. These include, mixed cultivation of domestic, economic and medicinal trees as well as food crops. Reasons such as windbreak, construction materials, medicine, food, fuelwood and nutrient enhancement were cited by farmers for practicing agroforestry. Common food crops found on farms include cocoyam, okro, maize, plantain and yams, among others. These crops are the mainstay of family food and income sources. Other livelihood activities include beekeeping, snail rearing and grasscutter raising and livestock breeding. The diversities of agroforestry practices have engendered decades of farm management practices and resource conservation measures. Another challenge of agroforestry management which is common to all the three projects is that farmers are victims of indiscriminate felling of trees on their farms by timber companies which destroys their crops.

Farmers repeatedly cited logistical (tools, seedlings etc) challenges and financial constraints as factors that hamper effective application of knowledge systems in agroforestry management. This is a dominant problem that PLEC and TBI farmers face. Capacity 21 farmers benefited initially from logistical supplies but it was short-lived.

In view of these problems, the study recommended measures for improving environmental information systems and local knowledge systems applications in agroforestry management and agrodiversity conservation in southern Ghana.

Convocation Year